Laurel L. Barr

The Panacea Placebo Project and Patient Property Project

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Naku te rourou nau te rourou ka ora ai te iwi
With your basket and my basket the people will prosper

Kia Ora Koutou Katoa!

Human tendons… inside of psychiatric wards… 1000 surgeon's masks… I am Laurel L. Barr - a visual artist whose work uses a variety of media and has looked at the intricacies of aspects of health, health care and psychology for 10 years. My degrees are in visual art and art education, but I have dabbled in applications to medical school and research in various health projects ( ) . I have always been fascinated by the human body, anatomy, medical science and health outcomes and this filters into my artwork regularly.

My curiosity, research and conversations about health relationships and experiences have led me to my latest two projects and exhibitions.

The Panacea Placebo Project
This project is about our stories as patients, the doctor-patient relationship, and communication about our bodies and ourselves and the experiences we have had. My own health has had to take priority in my life for a couple years and in talking about it with others, I realised that everyone has a story to tell about their health, their care, or interaction with the health field that has become a part of themselves. In this exhibition, you can help me show different sides of the patient-doctor relationship through collaborative works with doctors, do an interactive performance work, incorporate non-traditional medical materials into works that look at health outcomes, and empower viewers by allowing them to empower themselves by allowing me to complete my art about it.

This project has been picked up and supported by Urban Dream Brokerage (who are working to find a venue in Wellington on my behalf - an unused doctor's office). The show also aims to be a forum for discussion between health care providers, patient groups and other specialists by holding panels and various lectures within the space to create dialog and further growth and understanding.

The Patient Property Project
This exhibition started off as a response to my own mental health experience and activism, but has grown to gather the stories of you all. We all know the statistics and if you personally have never suffered from mental health issues, you definitely know someone who has. I have coincided this Boosted campaign to coincide with Mental Health Awareness Week so that you can help broadcast from a loudspeaker the attention that this issue deserves!

In my work I have looked at various elements of my own experience which should be relatable to at least 1 in 4 of you. From the overwhelming attention that OCD takes in my daily life to being hospitalised for anxiety and depression, we can together take a journey through my world that is relatable and reflective. Works about drug companies, acute psychiatric wards, the incessant nature of OCD and the stigma that follows us in this boat are stories to be told. I hope to allow the viewer to dig a bit into a world they either know too well in themselves, or one they need to know more about.

Like Panacea Placebo, I hope to invite various groups to speak about mental illness, create discussions and open doors. There are many groups trying to fight for more funding and acceptance of mental forms of illness in a tragically sad state that it is in (did you know there are more suicides per year than car accident deaths - by double!) I have talked to some of these warriors who are supportive and engaged in this exhibition. We need to make it happen so we can provide visual art insight into some of these issues and liaise with these movers and shakers.

Why am I asking YOU?!
I need help bringing these projects to light, and for a self funded artist whose work doesn't fit the selling basket, that means that I need help from you all for money for materials, venue hire, opening costs, printing, framing and promotion. In these projects I am nearly finished with a lot of the works, but need additional help with costs - like with bookbinding, photography printing and tanning and taxidermy processing (now doesn't that sound interesting to you?)

I know in my soul and in dialog with others that these projects are important and the connections they will make to others on a personal and societal level are worth investing in.

By contributing you will become a part of this rich communication and community that wants health relationships and mental health to be looked at in new ways and improved for us all through my art, interactive experiences and events/panels/discussions that will bring together key movers and shakers within the context of art exhibitions. There are also many opportunities to participate in the works yourself.

Are You Going to Nag Me?
Asking for money is always awkward, and those who know me best know that I am not very good at self promotion, let alone asking for things. I want to give back to you and at least make this process interesting. Think of it as helpful reminding! I will be posting regularly and hope to make it entertaining for you and an insight into my creative process and some looks into the works and my stories as the campaign runs. I would really appreciate if you could spread these out to your networks to get the word out there about my campaign - you never know who my message my relate to! I am depending on you and your goodwill using this platform to help my words get out there into every nook and cranny and will love you forever for it! Please take the time to share the word - I will do you proud!

Though I have set the target for my bare minimum of necessity to make it happen, 3,500$, there is so much of these projects that I have self funded and will have to continue to contribute to out of pocket. If we can make it even bigger and grow that amount ( I know we can do it!) that means I can make the shows even bigger and better with, for example, better printing of catalogs, bigger photo prints, and a much nicer opening etc.

All About Boosted and Your Donation
Boosted is a very reputable platform backed by Westpac Bank and The New Zealand Arts Foundation used by a variety of big and small artist groups from the Royal NZ Ballet to small filmmakers. It is safe and secure and won't ever share your data or information.

Boosted helps artists to set a financial target for their campaign that seeks donations of however much or little donors would like to contribute. If the project reaches its target within its time limit, the campaign is successful, Boosted takes 10% for their support and running costs (they have been awesome help!) and I get the rest. If it DOESN'T reach the target, I get nothing and your donation is returned to you. (BOO!)

NZ contributors can even claim a tax credit of 33% and will get a tax certificate from Boosted when they contribute! Get the super nice feeling of helping me out knowing I'm going to do a bang up job of it, AND get some money back! Win win!

If you are from overseas, all Boosted donations are in NZ dollars. So if you choose to donate 50$, it will appear on your credit card at the exchange rate of the time of donation. For my US friends, for example at the time of this writing, a 50$ donation would appear as $36.22. So if you want to give 50$ US, you'd need to put in around 70$ on the donation amount. Be aware that some credit card companies will attempt to stop a purchase made overseas, assuming the card has been stolen, but this is uncommon and can be remedied with a call to your credit card company or bank to assure them that the purchase is justified.

The amount you choose to donate won't be published, but you can choose to donate anonymously or using your own profile so we can see your smiling face knowing you made my world a little more special.

In order to make a donation you will need to join Boosted - it's like registering. This allows them to send you a tax receipt and keep up to date with my campaign. You need to press the big "DONATE" button, and the directions are clear from there! There is also a FAQ and you can contact them directly with any questions you may have about the process.

Now don't you just want to hit that button and be a part of this?

Thank You Thank You Thank You!!!
So I'll be regularly updating this space and letting you know about it (trust me, you'll hear about it), but I need your help to make this grow. If you can't contribute, please spread the word, but together we can make this happen and open a new world looking at health in society! I am so grateful for the undying support and interest that these projects have gathered over my time making work and talking about it and I am so thankful for anyone who will push this to the next level. Thank YOU for helping me make this happen!


  • Everyone can make a difference!!!


    My children and my amazing nephew decided that it was important to help me get to my goal and to support my art. I am so proud that they want to be involved and want to help. They decided to do a bake sale and sell their homemade cookies and their drawings on a windy Sunday afternoon after their swimming lessons. They made $54.70 towards the goal!! We have talked about what I am trying to do with my work and it makes my heart squeal that even small people have ideas on what to do to help change our world in their own ways. Do you want to join them?

    Love you boys! and ALL of my kind and generous donors!

    Everyone can make a difference!!!
  • We Did It!!!


    AMAZING!!!! Due to a very large donation from an anonymous donor,  I'm pleased as punch to announce my Boosted campaign has reached and gone over its target!!! I am so honored and proud that so many of you have faith in my campaign, the work and what I'm trying to achieve. By donating, YOU have helped me manage to get books bound, taxidermy some works, pay for printing of photographs, framing, exhibition costs like printing catalogs and a whole bunch of additional materials towards the work. The campaign will still run for 8 more days, and any additional donations will go to offset my own personal contributions to the projects, which are still very high and making the exhibitions even better quality like sponsoring invited guests to speak, and for panel discussions to dialog about creating better health outcomes and how we can make positive change.  For that I am making a NEW target of 5,000.  Do you know anyone who can help me make it or match my donations?? Thank you thank you thank you for your support, youre all stars!!!!  *mwaaaahhh!*

    We Did It!!!
  • Our Artist Mothers


    Our Artist Mothers

    So recently some artist friends and I were talking about the issues in management of our lives. One thing popped up that gets a lot of artist's hackle's up. It's a kind of touchy subject internally and in the artworld's eyes. Artist mothers. Mother artists.

    This is quite relevant to this campaign and my artist life, as I had to make some major life decisions when my husband and I decided to have children. How would it work out? What would be our source of income? How would I manage to deal with my creative side? I always knew that I wanted children. This is something that every woman artist has to consider and I dare say no one takes the decision lightly. For, when you have a child, you are creating yet another work - but one that takes considerable time and energy and is very often blocking your need and want for other creative ventures that makes us who we are as creative beings.

    I looked forward to the creativity that comes with children and using my education degrees in conjunction with my art creating urges. What I didn't expect is that my artist life was going to need to go on hold for a while, and doing full scale exhibitions was going to be out. So with my first son Kahurangi, I tried to channel my energies into things like monthly naked photo shoots of him, sewing clothes, making knitted squares with my craft group who became his surrogate aunties so I could actually knit for an hour while they took turns holding him. I made awesome bento lunches for his kindy in later years and took pride in creating amazing costumes for various events and making toys to entertain him. I made the decision to allow him to rule my world to some extent, and I enjoyed the journey. Watching him grow and learn and the fascination of the world through his new eyes was enough for me. The sense of wonder and passion that a toddler has is some of the most creative worlds we have. I pottered along with my art on the odd occasion he was occupied, but rather than get up and do art, I spent his naptimes cuddling with him instead. The creation I was making was building him up and the relationship of our love.

    With my second son Te Po Atarau, he was a very sickly and needy child. By the time he arrived 2 years later, I was starting to get twitchy that my art was progressing so slowly. And along came this boy who needed my attention 24-7 literally and wouldn't go to anyone else but me. I loved him so much, but I started to resent that I could not get time alone to myself to go the bathroom much less do any art. It was a hard time where I cried a lot and tried to convince myself that I was doing the right things by him, but desperately needed a creative outlet other than drawing pictures of him on my breast as it was the only time he was content. I ended up deciding that he was a sacrifice worth investing in, and I tried to make time fade - as with a baby or toddler the days are so incredibly long, but the years go by so fast. It was a long arduous haul, but we did it together and the bond that I have with him and had during that time was massively intense. I consider that emotional relationship as a major contributor to my art these days with empathy and understanding that I had never felt prior. I decided that I needed to put my life, my needs, my wants on hold at least until he went to school and be done with the battle in my head that constantly said "you need to make! you need to exhibit! you need to keep up with the artworld and get out there!" It was a very hard decision that I agonized and fought myself over, but once I made it, I was much more at ease and time faded faster towards my goal of their self sufficiency and my return to my passions for creating.

    So when both boys were in school, I finally had some time to think and feel about myself again and recognize my needs that had been only tinkered with over the years. I began working on relationships, telling stories with my work, gathering research as time permitted and was mommy for the rest of the day dealing with school lunches, home work, sports, and feral excited children who never wanted to sleep. This carries on to today, where I am the primary caregiver of my two greatest works. I watch them create and think and feel and just "exist" and this fuels my own fascination in them together with the kind of love only a mother feels. This feeds my work, and I will argue this point with anyone.

    Most of my favorite artists made conscious decisions not to have children. They thought it intrudes too much into their plan, their passion, their work and without that focus, that they would never be good. Most of the time they are right. The most successful women artists traditionally have not had children. But the ones who did or tried to desperately are there as well. Those are the ones we need to really be proud of, as the artworld still has a stigma that puts mothers in the background as having less drive, time and attention for the work, therefore they are not as dedicated. These women should receive even more credo as they manage two worlds and successfully navigate between them. While I lost some determination to succeed as an artist for a few years, the years allowed more personal growth than I can ever have achieved otherwise. I thank these leaders for breaking new paths that we can navigate on our own terms.

    So this brings me to where I am today. I have been working on my two projects that I am crowdfunding for since Atarau enrolled in school 2 years ago. My focus is now on getting that part of me that drew so much attention and energy put towards my work while still working on building the artworks that are my children. I can't wait to show what I have been working on and see if you can interpret the input that my being a mother has had on the works - or not. Because my job work has been limited in the last few years, my artwork has taken longer to achieve due to finance. My artwork is generally not saleable content, so it must be self funded to be completed and shown.

    This is where you come in! I would love if you could support these projects completion so that I can tell about the relationships, health outcomes and other stories that have been meshed into these works. I have a lot to say, and I need your help to say it. Please consider passing this on to your artist friends or otherwise as a thank you for doing what they do, and also consider donating to this campaign in honor of all artist mothers!

    Here's a quick video I made with the kids about artists and artist mothers last night. They're a bit shy, but they know how important and hard it is. They are also coordinating a bake sale and drawing sale for Sunday in order to help with my campaign with my amazing nephew. I couldn't be prouder of their ambition, love and concern for me and these projects. Also here's a little drawing I did just a wee while ago when Atarau came and fell asleep in my bed at 3am.

    Our Artist Mothers
  • You're all stars!


    Wow! We are currently sitting on 82%!! How amazing are all of you!!! I am so proud and honored that it has got to this point so fast. Donations have been coming in from so many people and places that I feel truly blessed. From big donations to small and from anonymous to famous people, we're getting backing from all sorts of places and people who want to get behind these projects and to help me out. I am confident that we are going to get there! A big smile and pat on the back to those who have contributed or spread the message around so far - You are super stars!

    If and when the donations go over the target (most campaigns do), the additional funds will go to offsetting the huge considerable costs that I have had to/will be putting towards the projects out of pocket.  It will enable me to do things bigger and better as well! Wouldn't that be awesome?

    Just a little note to say thanks for all those who want to share the love on Facebook, but Boosted is having a bit of trouble with the site being blocked somehow. I know lots of people have been trying to and been saying they can't, but Boosted are onto it and soon we should all be able to post to our little hearts' content!

    Thanks for all of your love - you are amazing!


  • Being an Insider


    Most people in my world would recognize me and my work as an artist and teacher or maybe a mom or academic. But what I am really going to talk about today is to speak about the issues of mental health that I have experienced and my thoughts about how we might move things forward – along with you all.

    I would first like to acknowledge that there has been a lot of work put into what to call people like myself, and I still struggle to find an adequate and comfortable fit with any of them. Service user, consumer, client, patient, all sound rather “labelly” and don’t represent the rich and diverse people who they are applied to. So I have given up giving a good solid suggestion, so I like to refer to myself as an ‘insider’ but also fully embrace the word ‘crazy’ in all its definitions, (but prefer “mentally interesting”). "Insider" embraces the idea that it is something that others may not understand or appreciate, and is also a nod to the duress and battle that happens on the "inside".

    So what does this have to do with my campaign, my art and my life? One of the two exhibitions that I've been working on for a couple years that I'm gathering funds for is called Patient Property. It started a couple of years ago when I had a drug interaction after a surgery that caused a condition called Seratonin Syndrome. It caused a chemical storm in my head like nothing I have ever experienced and I became very unwell in various ways. One of the ways was an extreme heightened anxiety that was like a panic attack that was 24 hours a day. Long story short, I ended up in hospital to deal with the physical and mental manifestations of the condition. While there I started to deal with my situation by attempting to soothe with my art and writing. It was one of my only coping mechanisms and after the syndrome faded a bit and I was sent into a deep depression as the doctors played fiddle-the-meds in an effort to help, I started to talk to other people. I heard story after story about the mental health system in NZ and the failings it had, but also some good stories. I met extraordinary people who were often brushed aside by doctors, their communities and the world in every socio-economic, ethnicity, or gender you can imagine. It was an extremely awful, dire time for me, but also one that was enlightening.

    I began to document people's stories and produce art in response to all that was happening around me, and was adamant to retell some of what happened over these years in some form visually. So many, many people are struggling and dying and not getting the help they need due to inadequate funding, overstressed mental health sector, and a general misunderstanding from the world as a whole about what mental illness is all about and the many forms it takes. I made it a promise to myself that I would do whatever I could to lobby government, assist those working the battles to have better outcomes, and grow with my own black dog nipping at my heel. And so here I am.

    Patient Property is important. One in 4 people has mental illness in our world. If you don't, I guarantee you know someone who does. We can not get anywhere hiding these issues under the carpet and we need people to stand up and say that not dealing with these issues has social, political and life affecting consequences.

    This is where you come in! I need funds in order to help get this show out there! I plan to exhibit the art that is currently half completed and needs further funding to finish - a mix of all sorts of media works and writing about my own journey and others'. I hope to make this exhibition part of a dynamic workshop with panels, speakers, writers, artists, doctors and work together to advocate for change in society and addressing how our mental health system is working. You may not know how to help someone who is in the throws of mental illness (though, ask me! I have ideas!), but contributing towards this exhibition and playing a part in making art meet social change is definitely one way that I would love! Come on board and see what we can do together. Let's help that one in four "Insider" around you!


    The artwork shown is temporarily called "Dolphins". It is a hand bound book of brochures that arrived in my box of antidepressants featuring pictures such as dolphins. The antidepressant that merged with my painkillers from surgery causing the seratonin syndrome is known to cause issues like this anecdotally by users as well as severe withdrawal, but this information is only now being disclosed to the medical community. One copy is to be sent to the drug company that produces this medication. One of the things I am funding for is for me to work with my excellent bookbinder to complete these works.

    Being an Insider
  • On our way!


    And here we go! We're just on our journey to get this campaign running and already we're doing so well! I have been flattered and feel very honored to already have so much support and love from some very kind and generous donors - most of which whom want to be anonymous. Even those who can't contribute financially have been amazingly supportive and curious about the art and the ideas.

    To those of you who have donated already, a huge hug filled with fluffy clouds, fuzzy kittens and rainbows! To everyone reading this, I challenge you to share this site, or to talk about these projects with one person today. Please spread the word! Have conversations! Lets move mountatins together!


    I'd like to share what was on my mind from my sketchbook a month or so ago. Here's my list of

    The Top 10 Things Life Lessons as an Artist

    10. You use gel medium to fix a run in your pantyhose.

    9. You haven't slept properly since you were 7.

    8. You refer to old magazines as "photo reference" and death comes to anyone who tries to pitch them out before you can get your hands on them.

    7. You can do wonders with an old shower curtain, 3 nails, an old tube of ochre paint and a styrofoam meat tray.

    6. You learn to smile when people say "Oh.... you're an artist? But what do you REALLY do? I just LOVE Thomas Kinkade!"

    5. Every article of clothing you own has a small handprint in paint or glitter somewhere on it.

    4. You use an xacto knife to cut sandwiches and apples for the kids lunchboxes in a pinch when all the silverware is in the running dishwasher.

    3. Upon meeting someone you're not afraid to say "You have an amazing philtrum, Can I draw it?"

    2. It is possible (though not advised) to live for periods of time eating only ramen noodles, cereal and caffeinated products.

    1. You come to realize that whether you like it or not, you have both the blessing and the curse. You are an artist.


    Thanks all - will keep updating on our journey!


    On our way!